Theme in Spanish

Authored by: Jorge Arús Hita

The Routledge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415748407
eBook ISBN: 9781315413891
Adobe ISBN: 9781315413884


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In order to speak about Theme, we need at the same time to refer to functions such as Subject or Agent, in Spanish as well as in English. In Spanish, however, the combination –or conflation, in systemic terms– of Theme with Subject or Finite does not play a role in the expression of interpersonal meaning as it does in English (as we shall see later in the chapter). The way in which the different metafunctions interact has long been recognised as asymmetric –mostly concerning the relationship of the textual metafunction, the one within which the theme system is found, with the others: ‘[I]t is only in combination with textual meanings that ideational and interpersonal meanings are actualized’ (Halliday 1978: 113). In spite of the existence of systemic literature dealing with the internal workings of this interaction – for example Matthiessen (1992: 44), who speaks of ‘(i) the experiential and (ii) interpersonal modes of organizations as carriers of textual waves’ – the second-order nature of textual meaning has arguably made of this metafunction the least transparent one and is perhaps the reason why it has been the most controversial. 1

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